Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Samuel Smiles

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Samuel Smiles

Article excerpt

Do ministers have no duty of diligence or competence under devolution? The chums of Donald Dewar who helped him choose Enric Miralles's design for the new Scottish Parliament failed to impose contractual obligations that included design or time or cost. The plans that won the awarded job have been so amended and revamped that they bear little resemblance to the original specifications. Time continues to slip by and the budget has now exceeded the original [pounds]40-million estimate six times. Few believe that the present [pounds]200 million will be the true ceiling.

Will anybody take the blame? Dewar is such an amiable cove that it seems unkind to charge him with incompetence. Sir David Steel, as Lord Steel prefers to be called in Edinburgh, is nominally in charge, but he is a mild-mannered retired politician with no hint of executive experience. Others who were in at the selection, such as the broadcaster Kirsty Wark, cannot be obliged to take any responsibility.

The Scottish Executive is looking at two surprising options. One way to pay for it may be to commandeer the National Lottery's proceeds for three or four weeks. Camelot will be anxious to oblige politicians because its franchise expires soon. The second option is a special tax -- although one levied on the Scots who nominally voted for the "devolved" powerhouse seems a non-starter. Yet it would be perfect symmetry for an institution given taxing powers to invoke them. A bill of [pounds]200 million divided between the two million Scottish voters is a mere [pounds]100 each. …

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